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INTA’s magic kingdom

This year’s annual meeting of the International Trademark Association was held in sunny Orlando, Florida, which in many respects is a very appropriate place for an association of trademarks to meet.  Orlando, of course, is the world’s epicenter of theme parks.  And the theme of themes is joyful, real-time, three-dimensional interaction with “intellectual property,” which for present purpose mostly means stuff born of copyright but transmogrified through the wonderful process of “branding” into trademarks.

Such undead creatures, of course, once so transformed can live forever as long as they justify their existence by bringing forth gold.  If so, they will be nurtured, grown and tended forever, and any threat to their health, or to their sustenance, will be brutally interdicted.  (Only in the event of a horrible accident of mutation — where, as a result of some regressive, non-adaptive feature, because of which their continued existence threatens the survival of the entire colony, will one of these creatures not only be allowed to die but, in fact — well, it is better not to speak of such things at all….)

Now, in ancient times this experience was encountered through the likes of oversized totems of the ancient gods of brand equity: Mickey and Minnie Mouse, Goofy and Pluto, with whom one posed ritually to be photographed before a vaguely distant construction of Cinderella’s Castle, or whatever the hell that was.  Now the Disneyland concept, as transferred to the far more spacious lands of south Florida and ballooned into Disneyworld, has grown throughout greater Orlando to a host of crowd-pleasing brand-equity exploitation gambits not just for Disney but for its older cousin, the “studio” folks at Universal.  They built their own twin theme parks, East and West, to milk their copyright-cum-trademark “brands” as well.

And they succeeded mightily, because in fact many of those brands were and are far more robust than the somewhat fey and childish Peter Pans and and Mr. Toads of Disney.

Disney, however, has come a long way in its theme park business since the old days, and is making a fortune, of course, as is Universal (whose parks are run by Comcast).  Indeed, since its upped its game with the addition of the Harry Potter business, Universal Studios kind of rocks.

All perfect for a trademark association, as I said.  Trademarks — the legal cornerstone of brands, which these once copyright-based creations have all become, much as a organic material becomes stone in a petrified forest — are the very cobblestones and building blocks of any theme park.  And that’s how I found myself at INTA’s closing “ceremony” last night at the gargantuan, gorgeous Universal CityWalk®

I’m not going to dwell on it, okay. You can read last Wednesday’s LIKELIHOOD OF CONFUSION® Twitter feed if you’re motivated to ingest some first-class curmudgeonry.

I really just wanted to make the point about trademarks and theme parks in case, um, anyone missed it amidst all the fun, which (if it’s not obvious), other people know how to have while I am making observations instead.  

On a more positive note, in, fact, actually, yes, the Harry Potter part is awesome, frankly.  And the staff are great, great young people.  They make you want to stay and pay.

Oh, and the conference?

Come on, it’s an international trademark association.  I went to my Internet Committee meeting, which was valuable and life-affirming, and did see some good, old trademark friends there, and in the process came to appreciate some connections I had not previously seen among some former colleagues.  Good and good.

CLE?  Well.  Best of intentions, certainly. But, no. Most lawyer panels: two or three women, one man, seems to be the rule.  One from North America, one from Europe, one from Asia, or at least it felt that way.  Usually two out of three are in-house.  The result was that presentations were an inch deep and a mile wide. With all due respect, these presentations are not even worth writing about any more.

The notable exceptions should be the academic panels, once you read closely and deduce that they’re really open to civilians (somehow I didn’t get this).  But, again, the composition of these panels is at first exciting and then, once you take another look, utterly off-putting.  For example:

CSU01 INTA’s Annual Professor vs. Practitioner Debate. “RESOLVED: Tarnishment Law is Just a Tool to Suppress Free Speech”
Intermediate Level

Don’t miss INTA’s annual Professor vs. Practitioner Debate, bringing passion and intellectual rigor (not to mention a fair bit of good humor) to the Annual Meeting. Each year, in a rumble between all-stars, a renowned professor battles a  prominent practitioner regarding an important issue in trademark law.   The debate resolution is designed to be provocative, and debaters are asked to take extreme opposing positions on it. Equivocation is discouraged! The debate will observe traditional rules and strict time limits, with an opportunity at the conclusion for audience voting.

This year’s debate, “RESOLVED: Tarnishment Law is Just a Tool to Suppress Free Speech,” will not disappoint. Professor Glynn Lunney of Texas A&M University School of Law (United States) will argue in the affirmative. His counterpart practitioner, Antoine Gautier-Sauvagnac of FTPA (France), will argue the negative. The debate will highlight not only divergent attitudes on the benefits of tarnishment theory, but also important policy differences between the US and European perspectives.  A question and answer panel with the audience will follow.

Glynn Lunney, Texas A&M University School of Law (United States)
Antoine Gautier-Sauvagnac, FTPA (France)

First of all, with all due respect, when the INTA schedule tells me the program is going to be “humorous,” that “equivocation is discouraged,” and that this program will be “provocative,” that’s when I reach for my revolver.  I smell a rat.

The rat readily reveals itself.  I guess I don’t know who the all-stars in trademark-related academia are here in these United States, but with all due respect to prominent French practitioner Antoine Gautier-Sauvagnac, I have no interest whatsoever in what a French trademark all-star thinks of tarnishment law or, for that matter, free speech.


And in terms of “humorous,” well… remember that old saw about France and Jerry Lewis?

There was also a panel on being an adjunct professor, which if one did not know the fine gentlemen involved would come across as nothing but an opportunity for preening, since in major metropolitan areas resume-enhancing opportunities for prestigious (yes) appointments to teach trademarks in law schools are virtually non-existent.

Of course there is the Davis and Welch Show — that is, the Annual Review of U.S. Federal Case Law and TTAB Developments — like-clockwork-worth-hearing every year, these fellows are insightful and smart without being tools.  But I repeat myself.

On point as ever, Ed.

Barcelona next year?  I don’t know.  I hope so.

INTA is just something you do.  I’ve equilibrated my expectations about INTA and, well, about a lot of things.

Most of them, or … enough of them, anyway. And that’s why I keep going back, and with God’s help always will.

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INTA’s magic kingdom


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